September 9, 2009

Church bells greet Samoa road switch

Church bells and honking horns sounded in Samoa to mark the moment drivers across the country switched from the right to the left side of the road.

The streets of the capital, Alpia, were lined with hundreds of people Monday as police at checkpoints signaled for drivers to move slowly during the transition, the Samoa Observer reported Wednesday.

Police Minister Toleafoa Fa'afisa made an announcement at 5:50 a.m. on national radio telling all motorists to stop their cars, and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi gave the order 10 minutes later for all cars to switch sides of the street. A final announcement made at 6:10 a.m. told motorists they could continue driving.

The Rev. Oka Fauolo, chairman of the National Council of Churches, held a prayer service Sunday morning at the Fire Service Headquarters in Alpia to seek God's blessings for the change on the island nation of about 180,000 people.

Supporters of the change said it will benefit lower-income Samoans as cars are cheaper to import from New Zealand and Australia, where cars drive on the left, than from the United States and Europe, CNN reported.